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By Fernand Gagnier, for ExpatBriefing.com
25 September, 2015
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled in a case concerning foreigners' entitlement to certain non-contributory social security benefits in Germany.
In the case of Jobcenter Berlin Neukölln v Nazifa, Sonita, Valentina and Valentino Alimanovic (Case C-67/14), the ECJ ruled that foreigners who go to Germany to obtain social assistance or whose right of residence arises solely out of a search for employment may lawfully be excluded from entitlement to German benefits.
Such exclusion was previously accepted as lawful in the case of member state nationals who go to another member state with no intention of finding employment there. The question in this case was whether such an exclusion is also lawful concerning Union citizens who have gone to a host member state to search for employment and have already worked for a period in that state, where those benefits are granted to nationals of the host member state who are in the same situation.
The latest case concerned four Swedish nationals: Ms Alimanovic, born in Bosnia, and her three children Sonita, Valentina, and Valentino, who were born in Germany in 1994, 1998, and 1999, respectively. The Alimanovic family left Germany in 1999 for Sweden and returned to Germany in June 2010. Following their return, Nazifa Alimanovic and her eldest daughter Sonita worked in several temporary jobs lasting less than a year. Since then they have not been engaged in any occupational activity. The Alimanovic family was subsequently paid benefits by way of basic provision.
In 2012, the competent authority (Jobcenter Berlin Neukölln) ceased payment of the benefits, taking the view that Ms Alimanovic and her eldest daughter were excluded from entitlement to the allowances concerned as foreign job-seekers whose right of residence arose solely out of the search for employment. Consequently, that authority also excluded the other children from entitlement to the allowances.
In response to the questions referred by a German court, the ECJ ruled in favor of the Jobcenter, that denying Union citizens whose right of residence in the territory of a host member state arises solely out of the search for employment entitlement to certain "special noncontributory cash benefits," which also constitute "social assistance," does not contravene the principle of equal treatment.
In its ruling, which may potentially have a significant impact on expats' social benefit entitlement, the ECJ said: "Where an EU citizen who has enjoyed a right of residence as a worker is in involuntary unemployment after having worked for less than a year and has registered as a job-seeker with the relevant employment office, he retains the status of worker and the right of residence for no less than six months. During that period, he can rely on the principle of equal treatment and is entitled to social assistance."
"Where an EU citizen has not yet worked in the host member state or where the period of six months has elapsed, a job-seeker cannot be expelled from that member state for as long as he can provide evidence that he is continuing to seek employment and that he has a genuine chance of being engaged. However, in this case the host member state may refuse to grant any social assistance."
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